It was a little after 9 a.m. when 30 students from Jian Ping High School arrived at Shelton High to spend the day and experience what it’s like to be an American student.
In their short time in Shelton, the group of visiting and hosting students realized they had more in common than they had anticipated.
As the students got off the bus on Wednesday, they were greeted by Headmaster Dr. Beth Smith and Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet.
What the visiting students didn’t know is that school days in America are much shorter than what they are used to.
In Shanghai, students attend school from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week and then they often go home to several hours of homework. At Shelton High, students are in school from 7:25 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. Depending on the classes they take, the amount of homework will vary by student.
The students smiled as they made their way up the stairs into the building and were greeted by Shelton High students anxious to meet the visitors to their school. Smith welcomed the students once more to her high school and said she was excited they could come visit.
Once the students were settled into the lecture hall, Smith told them, “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to engage with other students from another country, and sometime in the future, we hope they [students] can visit Shanghai as well.”
The students who traveled all the way from Shanghai came as part of the partnership between the United States and China. The partnership gives students and staff the opportunity to see what school is like on the opposite side of the world, and also that there are many similarities between teenagers and the curriculum.
One of the similarities was students’ tendency to use their cell phones frequently throughout the day.
The match between the two schools was formed through Clouet and Garrick Yau, who is co-owner of EPE Group, located in Westchester County, N.Y. EPE is an international education advisory organization that manages academic exchange partnerships between schools in the United States, Beijing, and Shanghai.
Yau often travels to China and has a great understanding of both the Chinese and U.S. education systems. This is the first time the group has worked with a Connecticut school.
As part of the partnership between the two countries, Clouet, Jim Hill (social studies curriculum leader) and Smith will travel to Shanghai in April.
They will tour Jian Ping High School and attend an education forum where they will complete sister school agreements.
Clouet said he was happy the Shanghai students were there and used the only phrase he knew in Mandarin — Nǐ hǎo, which means hello.
Christiana Tang, a Shelton High school senior who was born in Shanghai and who moved to the United States when she was 10 years old, was present for the school’s visit to Shelton. She is fluent in Mandarin and was happy to greet the students.
Luckily, most of the guests spoke English.
“The snow is very beautiful here,” said Jian Ping High School student Kyie Csu. “It is pretty crazy (busy) here,” he added while enjoying a donut.
Csu waited with a student he was to shadow for the school day. Students were able to tour the science fair that was taking place, see various classrooms, including a television production room, and enjoy a free lunch Clouet was able to provide.
During a gift exchange, the Chinese students were given water bottles and rally towels on behalf of the robotics team. Shelton High was presented with a scroll made by a student with Jian Ping’s motto, “Openness and Excellence,” hand-painted in Chinese. The school was also given a plaque with the name of Jian Ping High School on it to help celebrate the occasion.
After the gifts were exchanged, the students paired off to tour the school, attend classes, and share American experiences of school. It was also noted that there was a fire drill that day.
“This has been a wonderful experience, and I look forward to a bright future,” said Garrick Yao.